The Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, took delivery from Lufthansa Technik of the first new Airbus A350 due to operate as a governmental aircraft.
The handover took place in Hamburg, in presence of the Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. In total, three A350-900 aircraft were ordered by the federal government. The other two machines are expected to be completed by 2022. They will replace the two Luftwaffe A340s that currently constitute the backbone of the German governmental fleet.
The order was placed in May 2019, after years of technical mishaps affecting the aging planes of the governmental fleet. Negotiations for the acquisition of new planes officially started after Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to give up on attending the opening of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, in November 2018.
The official plane that was supposed to take her to Argentina, the A340 VIP “Konrad Adenauer”, was forced to undertake an emergency landing in Cologne after an electronic distribution box caused several systems, including the communications, to shut down. The Chancellor eventually took a commercial flight from Madrid to Argentina.
It is the world’s first government aircraft based on an A350-900, according to Lufthansa Technik. The cabin was equipped with a conference room, a lounge and a modern kitchen. Airbus also fitted the A350 with special avionics, such as a Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measure system (LAIRCM) to protect the planes from incoming missiles.
The first aircraft will now go through further testing, before its entry into service sometime in 2020.
On August 14, 2020, Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) won an order for two additional A321LR aircraft from Lufthansa Technik. They will incorporate the Luftwaffe fleet as multi-role aircraft for various types of missions, such as troop transport, and medical evacuation.